Ventura County Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) Names 2-1-1 Ventura County as Source for Thomas Fire Recovery Information
Ventura County VOAD recently named 2-1-1 Ventura County, a program of Interface Children & Family Services in partnership with the County of Ventura, local cities, First 5 Ventura County, United Way of Ventura County and the Ventura County Community Foundation, as the community’s main source for Thomas Fire recovery information. Because of Interface’s expertise having provided emergency communications support to other local, Northern California and out of state 2-1-1’s during a series of disasters in 2017, the 2-1-1 Ventura County team is positioned to serve in this pivotal role.
“2-1-1 Ventura County is a member of VOAD – their experience assisting other regions duringnational tragedies including the Las Vegas Mass Shooting, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the fires in Northern California, make them the obvious choice for easy access to information that will help our county recover,” said Maggie Tougas, Ventura County VOAD Chair. “VOAD’s collaboration with 2-1-1 Ventura County was a natural fit.”
Erik Sternad, Interface’s Executive Director, emphasized the dedication of the 2-1-1 Ventura County team – “Under the threat of their own family’s evacuation and challenges getting to work, our 2-1-1 Ventura County staff put others’ safety first answering calls for information and texting individuals who were without power during the first stages of the Thomas Fire. When the Montecito Mudslide occurred, we were prepared to support emergency efforts providing lifesaving information to residents who understandably had already been through so much.”
To date, 2-1-1 Ventura County has assisted 1,800 Ventura County residents via phone looking to safely evacuate, for shelter locations, available financial assistance, location of missing persons and information about FEMA applications due to the Thomas Fire. 2-1-1 responded to over 10,000 texts in English and Spanish requesting information on the Thomas Fire and mudslides. 24 contact specialists have been on the front lines, live, 24/7 to provide the information needed in English and Spanish, via call, 2-way-text and online at 211ventura.org.
Soon after the fire, a 2-1-1 contact specialist received a text from an active duty military member who stated that he and his family were struggling attempting to recover from the trauma they had experienced from the fire. He confided that he was currently suffering from PTSD. The stress from evacuating his home due to the fire had inhibited his ability to find financial and emotional support he and his family needed. The 2-1-1 Ventura County contact specialist explained the resources that were available to his family and immediately connected him with the Ventura County Thomas Fire Service Center.
“People don’t realize that even though the flames are out and the rain has stopped, individuals are still suffering, needing access to physical and mental health resources,” said 2-1-1 Ventura County Director Kelly Brown. “Our team is currently reaching out via text to residents of Ventura and Ojai who texted for assistance in the past several weeks to check in with them and offer mental health and wellness support resources. Our ability to staff two-way texting with bi-lingual contact specialists was made possible through funding from Kaiser Permanente and a new grant from Dignity Health who both join Interface in a commitment to making it easier for highly compromised populations to access the help they need. An example of this is a text Interface received from a concerned resident whose elderly parents reside in Montecito. They did not have phone service and were in need of evacuating due to water beginning to flood their home from the creek next door. A 2-1-1 Ventura County contact specialist provided the couple’s name and address to Office of Emergency Services for emergency rescue. 2-1-1 Ventura County called back later in the day to confirm with a grateful daughter that her parents were safely evacuated.”
Residents and concerned loved ones affected by the fire and mudslide can call 2-1-1, text keyword “StormInfo” to 898-211 (or “tormenta” for Spanish text) or visit icfs.org for up-to-date information, including road closures, Thomas Fire recovery resources and storm information.
Programs like Interface’s 2-1-1 exist because of caring community members. To support these efforts and ensure 2-1-1 will be around for our community when disaster strikes again, text keyword 211VC to 898-211 to make a donation or visit icfs.org/donate.
2-1-1 is a comprehensive information and referral service for Ventura County and surrounding areas connecting community members with information about health and human services available to them. If you or someone you know is in need of confidential, 24/7 assistance in the areas of food, mental health counseling, housing, health care, senior services, information during times of disaster, including road closures and shelters, call 2-1-1, text zip code to 898-211, or click 211ventura.org.